If you are one of the 42% of Long Covid sufferers who have developed a condition such as Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia you are probably feeling very alone. But in truth, you are not. Since the Covid Pandemic, there has been an explosion in the diagnosis of these conditions, however, they had been becoming more and more common for a long before.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Well, it is a condition that causes widespread pain. People who have fibromyalgia typically have an underlying depressive disorder and anxiety. They also can be quite easily distressed and have trouble sleeping.
- Stiffness and pain all over the body. Most commonly found in the neck.
- General tiredness that is not removed after sleep.
- Depression and Anxiety.
- Skin conditions such as generalised itching and rashes. This can include dry eyes.
- Bladder problems, including increased urination.
- Bloating and irritable bowel.
- Pins and needles in hands and feet.
Sufferers have reported more cognitive issues such as problems differentiating their right and left, brain fog and memory issues.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a serious long-term illness that is recognised by the symptom of crippling fatigue. This fatigue is not improved by rest and those that suffer from this fatigue cannot perform their usual activities. Often exercise and activity can make the symptoms worse.
While the causes of CFS remain unknown it often follows a serious viral infection or prolonged exposure to stressors. It is quite common for this to last for years resulting in those who suffer from this condition having difficulty maintaining a social life or employment.
- Fatigue that inhibits daily activities and which worsens after physical or mental activity.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Cognitive issues such as brain fog, poor memory and confusion.
- Widespread tenderness and pain.
- Tender lymph nodes
- Muscle weakness
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
People with these conditions usually feel quite distressed as this is a diagnosis of elimination and thus can be more time-consuming to diagnose and more easily dismissed by medical professionals. Often unspoken about, these conditions highlight how important diagnosis has become in validating our illness.
When I was first diagnosed with chronic pain there was very little actually known about it. It made me tired, moody, short-tempered, anxious and pretty debilitated throughout the day.
The worst part about chronic pain is the hopelessness. The idea was that short of a miracle there was going to be nothing that was going to take the pain away. Luckily, medicine has advanced a lot in the last ten or so years, especially with regard to conditions like Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue syndrome.
1. Correct Breathing
Pain is directly influenced by our sympathetic nervous system. Often when people get a fright or a sudden shock they experience a dart of pain. This reaction occurs so quickly that it often passes unnoticed. As chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia are closely linked to the stress response many people report immediate improvements to their symptoms when they correct their breathing.
Typically many people who suffer from chronic stress breathe into their chest as opposed to their belly. This not only harms their central nervous system, but it puts a massive strain on the muscular structure that surrounds the lungs, such as the neck and shoulders.
With some careful practice, this can be quickly rectified and belly breathing can become habitual.
To practise I recommend lying on your back. If you suffer from high blood pressure or any heart conditions it can be better to support the head and shoulders with a pillow so that you are lying on a small incline. If you suffer from any lower back problems place a pillow under your knees so that they are supported with a slight bend.
Relaxing your arms and shoulders place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest.
Through your nose slowly breathe in. Using a count can be helpful, I suggest using a slightly longer count such as 6 or 8 if possible.
As you breathe in, ensure that the hand that is resting on your belly is moving up and down and that the hand on your chest remains mostly still. It can be tempting to puff your belly out using muscle strength, however, this can give us a distorted idea of how effective our practice it is.
With careful relaxation and practice, this breathing can be permanently improved.
What is most astonishing about this type of exercise is that after only a few moments of careful breathing, you can begin to notice a real difference in how you feel, both physically and mentally.
Breathing, like driving, is something that we do unconsciously. Both, if neglected can have a detrimental impact on our mental and physical health.
2. Graduated Exercise
Typically when we think of exercise and we are currently suffering from something like a chronic condition our central nervous system can become overwhelmed just thinking about it. Graduated exercise is often overlooked, rarely recommended and usually done incorrectly if offered as any kind of prescription mainly because it sounds kind of ridiculous.
The graduated exercise involves gentle activity, usually walking for short periods and increasing the exposure to activity daily. If walking, for example, you would begin with 30 seconds or a minute, depending on how much mobility you have at the time of beginning and increase the activity by one minute or 30 seconds every day following. This sounds too easy to most people, hence they often push themselves in the beginning by starting with too much activity. This can often you back as graduated exercise is designed in this way for a reason.
Graduating the exercise in this way allows the nervous system to become accustomed to the stress that activity and exercise put on a body. Gently increasing the activity within the parameters that the body is comfortable with slowly increases our tolerance for activity without stressing the system. The same can be applied to any fitness regime, however, this is designed in such a way that won't harm an already fragile system. If done correctly the results can be remarkable and within 30 to 60 days can amount to a sizeable amount of activity.
3. Neurostructural Integration Technique
NST is not so commonly practised, however, anyone that has had this slightly strange procedure will understand the transformative potential that this gentle touch practice has. It is generally practised by physiotherapists and is a bodywork technique that aims to restore balance and harmony to the body. With gentle pressure and light touching this technique moves around the body releasing the tension, integrating and harmonising the opposing parts, naturally promoting the healing power in the body.
This technique quickly and effectively removes pain and stress, almost magically. It is a safe bodywork practice that can be used on anyone. The handbook of NST states that its secret "to why NST works is because of its underpinning philosophy. Put simply, the philosophy is, that the body is a self regulating bioenergetic and biomechanical phenomena which will continue to regulate itself for as long as it has the reserve energy necessary to sustain life, by the ongoing process of biological adaptation."
Its true, this Australian developed practise does really work. NST postulates that if you released muscular imbalances the body would regulate itself. This, over time, would have a lasting effect on the body thus reducing pain, and symptoms and increasing energy levels. Addressing the origin of the problems means that they will not return, proving that this is a lasting solution.